The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
A number of nations, including the US and the UK, have withdrawn from participation in the September 2011 Durban III conference. This gathering is a forum for those who hate Israel to get together for the purpose of condemning her attempts to protect her citizens.
On a very different note, the World Council of Churches in May 2011 hosted “World Week for Peace in Palestine.” On its official site the Methodist Church’s Rev. John Calhoun, identified in an editor’s note as a member of the New York Annual Conference and convener of World Week for Peace in “Palestine Israel,” described the uprisings in Arab countries that have come to be known as “Arab Spring.” He characterized these overthrows in this way: “. . . ordinary citizens have been rising up against their illegitimate leaders and demanding political freedoms.” He mentioned the regimes that “already have fallen in Tunisia and Egypt.”
In Calhoun’s article, this language flows directly into: “Those living under [Israel’s] illegitimate control are the Palestinians of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.” The title of this article, reflected in a banner photo of Palestinians walking beside a heavily-graffitied wall, is “It’s time for Palestine.”
It should be recognized that “Palestine” is a name that was first applied to the larger area of Israel by Roman occupiers. This applied name was continued by the British during the time of their mandate after WWI. Prior to the Roman occupation, Israel was Israel.
Further, the words “Illegitimate control” need to be considered. The piece cites various UN resolutions relating to Israeli territories that Israel has “defied” by not yielding these in various ways to “Palestinians.”
Our understanding of Scripture is that Israel was given sovereignty in the Land forever, although not to the exclusion of residency and participation for other nationalities. Arabs live in Israel and even participate in the Knesset. Throughout Israel in many places one sees a green “Palestinian”/Arab flag flying alongside of the Israeli flag. This openness is not extended to Israelis in Arab nations. Further, Israel is not firing on or terrorizing “Palestinians.”
Walid Shoebat, who is a Jordanian by birth, speaks of the time in 1967, immediately following the 1967 War (in which Jordan and other Arab neighbors attacked Israel, resulting in Israel’s winning the war and regaining control of Jerusalem); he indicates that at that time he “suddenly became a ‘Palestinian’ — before this I was a Jordanian.”
This is key information.
Calhoun cites the Wesleyan tradition of social responsibility within the church. He mentions a church publication that encourages visitors to the Holy Land to worship with “indigenous Christians.” Further, he cites a Methodist publication entitled “Opposition to Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land.” This publication states:
The United Methodist Church opposes continued military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, the confiscation of Palestinian land and water resources, the destruction of Palestinian homes, the continued building of illegal Jewish settlements, and any vision of a “Greater Israel” that includes the occupied territories and the whole of Jerusalem and its surroundings (Resolution 6073).
One wonders whether Methodist administrators have glanced at the Old Testament recently.
A recent report within the Presbyterian church recommends continuing the “phased, selective divestment” from companies that do business with Israel, which was enacted in 2004. “The church has been split on this for years,” general presbyter for the Hudson Valley Susan Andrews told Jewish Telegraphic Agency reporter Dan Klein.
On a brighter note, Canada’s conservative prime minister Stephen Harper recently indicated that “Canada will always stand by Israel” in national policy.
In Israel the more ultra-rabbinical a sect, the less they read and study the Bible. Most ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel and elsewhere teach their young men the rabbinical books of the Talmud, and their average yeshiva student knows selected Biblical texts only through the pre-digested commentaries of the Talmud and other rabbinical literature.
However, there are branches among Orthodox Jews that are giving priority to the study of the Bible. One such individual was Rabbi Mordechai Breuer who recently died at the age of 86. He was born into a family of modern Orthodoxy and became a highly respected authority – although virtually unknown outside of Israel – on the Old Testament books of the Bible.
In 1958 he was asked to proofread a Hebrew edition of the Bible and suddenly found himself to be considered an expert on the subject. From then on, his life was spent examining the Hebrew Biblical texts.
The Oldest Existing Hebrew Bible
As all Biblical scholars know, there are a great number of manuscripts (mainly fragments) of the Hebrew Bible which have been preserved over the last thousand years and are used today by scholars who are studying the texts or translating them into different languages. But the Bible considered to be the oldest and most reliable in existence is the Aleppo Codex (Codex is an archaic word for the earliest form of a book. Biblical text were usually written on scrolls to be read in the synagogue. When scribes wrote the text in book form, it was only for scholarly study), copied around 920 A.D. in Tiberius by the famous scribe Aaron Ben-Asher. The priceless Bible was stolen in the 11th century and brought to Egypt, finally ending up in a synagogue in Aleppo, Syria for 600 years.
Up until the 1950’s, the complete manuscript in Aleppo was still in good condition. But with the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the ensuing Arab rioting, scholars pleaded with the Aleppo rabbis to move the Bible to a safer location.
However, for centuries the rabbis of Aleppo had fiercely guarded the codex, keeping it in almost total isolation and not even letting Jewish scholars examine the manuscript! What is worse, the rabbis would not allow the scroll to be photographed, probably out of superstition that as long as that Bible was the sole possession of the Jewish community in Aleppo, they would be safe from calamity. (http://www.bible-researcher.com/aleppo.html)
In 1948 the synagogue was set on fire; the codex disappeared and the Aleppo rabbis led the world to believe it had been destroyed by fire. But witnesses to the rescue of the manuscript informed the Israeli government, and with much behind-the-scenes pressure, worldwide, the rabbis finally allowed the Aleppo Codex to be smuggled into Israel page by page with tourists in 1958. However, to the horror of the Israeli scholars, only two-thirds of the Bible arrived; the Torah was almost completely missing along with a few other portions. Out of a total of 487 pages, only 295 arrived.
Until today, the missing leaves are a subject of fierce controversy as some scholars b elieve they are still hidden among the Jewish community of Aleppo.
A Modern Searcher for God’s Word
In 1968, Rabbi Mordechai Breuer was assigned the task of determining the Hebrew Bible’s wording, spelling, vowels and cantillation (chanting) from ancient manuscripts for a modern Bible commentary which would be faithful to the belief that the Biblical text was inspired by God.
Breuer would have given almost anything to have had access to the Aleppo Codex as the basis for his research. And by now, the Aleppo Bible was in Israel! However as scholars are prone to do, the professors at the Hebrew University studying the Bible would not allow any other researchers to share the asset! (Ha’aretz, 22Mar07)
Due to lack of choice, Breuer used five other most important Bible manuscripts (although newer than the Aleppo Codex). He began his own monumental reconstruction of the Masoretic texts (see the story below) comparing them word for word. His method of selecting the correct text each time he observed variations, was to choose the spelling and notations of what he found in the majority of the five manuscripts. For example, if manuscripts 1, 2, 3 and 5 agreed on a spelling, but 4 did not, he would use the majority spelling.
By accepting the version of the majority and discounting the deviations of the minority, Breuer was convinced he was uncovering the one authoritative original writings of the Bible preserved by Masorah (oral tradition) – the ancient version given by the inspiration of God. (Ibid)
Other scholars strongly disagreed with his methodology because they supposed that there were many oral traditions which came down through the centuries as Jews emigrated to different nations. But Breuer believed that from time immemorial there was a single universally accepted oral tradition and the variant spellings and notations in the different manuscripts were simply errors made by scribes.
Recreating the Text of a Lost Torah
Thus, Rabbi Breuer reconstructed the entire Old Testament by examining each word in the five most important ancient manuscripts. And then his wildest dream came true. Somehow, he managed to get his hands on a copy of the Aleppo Codex. He never even told his son how he came to possess the facsimiles, but the son said when he came home that day with the manuscript, “he acted like an accomplice to a crime!”
Then the next miracle happened. When Breuer began to compare his re-creation of the Biblical text from the five manuscripts to the Aleppo text, lo an behold, they were exactly the same except for two places! An incredible discovery! This comparison proved that from the time the books of the Bible were written there was one and only one universally accepted version of the Masoretic text that was handed from one generation to the next, and it proved that the Aleppo Codex faithfully recorded it.
Furthermore, this meant Breure’s method could be used authoritatively to reconstruct the missing portions of the Aleppo Codex. (Ibid)
Rabbi Breuer later issued an independent version of the entire Old Testament that was quickly accepted as the most reliable and accurate. The “Jerusalem Crown” Bible is a modern version of the Hebrew Scriptures based on the Aleppo Codex and the reconstruction work of Breuer. It is the official version of the Bible of the State of Israel and used when the President of Israel is sworn into office.
Dead Sea Scrolls 1000 years older than Aleppo Codex
With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, very few dramatic changes in the Biblical text have been found. The Dead Sea Scrolls have, in almost every case, confirmed the accuracy of the Masorah, and suggest that an ancestor of the Masoretic Text (a scroll or codex with notations) was indeed in existence at least 100 years before the birth of the Messiah.
There is one very interesting difference found in the Dead Sea Scrolls in Psalm 22:17 (English, 22:16). The Masoretic texts read “like a lion are my hands and feet” which does not make sense. But the Septuagint – a Greek translation of the Old Testament by Jewish scholars in the second century B.C., – reads, “They have pierced my hands and feet.”
Discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls confirmed the Septuagint version of this verse! Since Psalm 22 is one of the most important and clearest chapters describing the death of the Messiah, this is an important verification. Many of the latest revised translations have incorporated changes due to research done with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nevertheless, nearly all are theologically insignificant such as minor misspellings.
The Bible went through a remarkable history to make it into this century, especially in view of the ancient methods of transmitting texts by hand, sometimes in primitive conditions, and considering that the scribes lacked photocopy machines, computers, printing presses, and similar modern inventions. (http://byubroadcasting.org/deadsea/book/chapter2/sec3.html)*
The Mesorah notations in the margins of the text show the painstaking and passionate zeal these ancient scribes possessed in their quest to safeguard the accuracy of the sacred text from generation to generation. The world owes an enormous debt to these dedicated Jewish scribes who spent their lives copying the Word of God, letter by letter, notation by notation, so that after several thousand years, we may still find salvation through the authentic Words of God as originally written down by Moses, the prophets, the kings and inspired men of God.
Controversial filmmaker Molotov Mitchell (often featured on WorldNetDaily) recently released a video entitled “Uganda is right, Rick Warren is Wrong” concerning Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would criminalize homosexuality, allowing for the death penalty in certain situations.
The video certainly contains some food for thought and some important American and Ugandan historical information, but one section gave me particular pause. At the 35 second mark, Mitchell states:
According to the Bible, God created the death penalty, not man. And it was God who determined what crimes deserved it.
So unless there’s some passage in scripture that I have missed where Jesus said “I have come to abolish the law,” then Ugandans are right, and Rick Warren is wrong.
During this segment, he displays a reference to Leviticus 20:13 which states:
If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.
Mitchell, then, is claiming that since Jesus did not come to “abolish the law,” then the Old Testament law that requires the death penalty for those caught engaging in homosexual acts should be enforced in obedience to God. Thus, “Uganda is right, and Rick Warren is wrong.”
It is true that Jesus did not come to abolish the Old Testament law, as Michael Brown has stated in response to the Anti-Missionary claim that “Jesus abolished the Law”:
“As Messiah, Yeshua was the ultimate Torah teacher, showing us how the entire Hebrew Bible reached fulfillment in him and also giving us deep spiritual insights into how the Torah could remain relevant for the Jewish people in generations to come, even when we would be scattered throughout the world, without a Temple, a sacrificial system, or a functioning (earthly) priesthood…”
– Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 4
Does this mean, however, that all nations are bound to issue the laws of capital punishment given to Israel through Moses? If so, when governments refuse to carry out the judgments required in the Old Testament, are Christians required to perform them in their stead? (Gay activist sites have been concerned about this very thing, stating “This is what incitement to violence looks like” and “It’s this nation’s conservative movement, who must condemn this kind of behavior wholly and loudly before someone’s literal blood permanently stains their movement!”)
In the video, Mitchell seems to be quite at ease with this conclusion. But if we are required to put homosexuals to death for the OT laws they have broken, then are we not also required to put adulterers, Sabbath breakers, and rebellious teenagers to death? All of these are capital offenses according to the Old Testament. Does Mitchell really want to go in this direction? (Would Mitchell himself be alive under such a regime?)
As Frank Turek has pointed out, governments have three choices when it comes to legislating a behavior. They can prohibit it, permit it or promote it. Serving as salt and light in the places in which we reside as believers in Jesus, we stand firmly against governmental promotion of homosexuality, adultery, and other behaviors that are detrimental to society. Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether detrimental behaviors should be permitted or prohibited (take the use of alcohol and drugs for instance), and reasonable minds can also disagree with regard to which (if any) behaviors should require the death penalty (for example, first degree murder). The idea however that governments (and perhaps even individual Christians) are required to put homosexuals to death because God required it of ancient Israel, and, after all, Jesus did not come to “abolish the law,” is one that, if it is followed through consistently, would result in either a theocratic state consisting of very few people (imagine loading everyone that has worked on a Saturday into trucks and hauling them off to the electric chair) or a chaotic Christian killing spree (is this at all consistent with the model put forth in the New Testament of Jesus and the early Church?)
Such scenarios are, of course, completely ludicrous, and that is the point. It is true that Colonial America criminalized homosexuality, but they also criminalized adultery and sex outside of wedlock. How many conservatives would hold up to such requirements today? (Need I mention the number of conservative politicians that have failed in this area? Should they be put to death?) Gay activists often unfairly accuse believers in Jesus of “cherry-picking” Bible verses to suit their needs, using scripture as a “prop behind which to hide their bigotry.” I’m afraid statements like the ones made in this video regarding the application of Old Testament law must come from either a place of ignorance (perhaps he had not fully thought through his argument before making it) or as a direct fulfillment of these very accusations. One thing is clear, the scriptures are not to be used in some cavalier fashion, as if we were free to use these precious divine words to attack others and justify ourselves as we please. In the end, “in the same way [we] judge others, [we ourselves] will be judged, and with the measure [we] use, it will be measured to [us].” Let us therefore judge rightly… resisting the homosexual agenda with courage, and reaching out to the homosexual community with compassion.
Here’s a sign that was held at a Boston Gay Marriage Protest from a few years ago:
Here’s the biblical text the sign is referencing in its entirety:
If any man takes a wife and goes in to her and then turns against her, and charges her with shameful deeds and publicly defames her, and says, ‘I took this woman, but when I came near her, I did not find her a virgin,’ then the girl’s father and her mother shall take and bring out the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the elders of the city at the gate.
The girl’s father shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man for a wife, but he turned against her; and behold, he has charged her with shameful deeds, saying, “I did not find your daughter a virgin.” But this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they shall spread the garment before the elders of the city.
So the elders of that city shall take the man and chastise him, and they shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give it to the girl’s father, because he publicly defamed a virgin of Israel. And she shall remain his wife; he cannot divorce her all his days.
But if this charge is true, that the girl was not found a virgin, then they shall bring out the girl to the doorway of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death because she has committed an act of folly in Israel by playing the harlot in her father’s house; thus you shall purge the evil from among you.
How would you respond? Here are some thoughts Dr. Brown shared on the subject:
There were certain laws that God gave to ancient Israel before Jesus came into the world in order to maintain certain standards of purity and in order to keep Israel separate from the nations. Those laws are not applicable to Christians today. There were other laws based on universal principles of morality and holiness, including the prohibition against murder, the prohibition against child sacrifice, and the prohibition against homosexual practice. Those laws are still in full force today.
Note from the Author: I have taken it upon myself to share with you a part of a booklet I put together entitled ‘Jesus Ministry’. It was written especially for young people, who have perhaps been going through the motions of church life without knowing ‘the reason for existence’ and the reality of the Kingdom of God. This is not a ‘plug’ for the book, rather it is an appeal to you, in as much as it has been God’s appeal to me in recent years. Whether young or old, God wants all of you; a Divine possession that will not only consume your life, but manifest His life through you in an unprecedented way!
Malachi 3 (NAB)
17 And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.
1 Peter 2 (1890 Darby Bible)
9 But ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light…
The term ‘possessed’ brings up all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts in our minds, especially when we read in the Scripture of those who were ‘possessed’ by evil spirits. In the Old Testament we read that the Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon. We do not hear enough today of the reason Christ died and shed His blood for us; that is the gift of His Spirit, poured out upon those who repent and believe. For this reason our God did this – that the Spirit may clothe Himself with a people! This is why Christ came into this world… to get for Himself a people for His own possession!
All New Testament teaching has its basis ultimately in the mission and message of Jesus – the focus being on Jesus – the Messiah and Son of God, who through His death and resurrection brought about salvation for God’s New Testament people. They would comprise of Jew and Gentile to form a last days community of disciples, living in the present time by the Spirit, as they awaited the final triumph of that salvation in the return of Christ. The first followers of Christ knew that the time of the Kingdom had been fulfilled and would be completed when Jesus returned. These men and women lived like all the issues of Jesus Christ dominated their very being. They were consumed with Him… possessed by Him and His realities. They knew that they existed as God’s people for that time – chosen, redeemed, possessed by God – as His end time people. There are a few things the early church lived out and are of vital importance to the present day disciple:
Though our bodies still await that awesome time when Christ will return to perfect His work concerning us and make us like Him, our spirits have already been, and continue to be transformed (transfigured) toward perfection in Jesus. (Romans 8: 11). God is working His life into us today!
God’s people are to live in the sense that the glory of the future is already at work within them, both for the transformation of the person and for the preparing of the whole people of God. Heavenly eternity has been set in their hearts by the Spirit.
Ephesians 1 (NAS)
13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14 which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
Listen to these words of revelation from Matthew Henry:
All who are designed for heaven hereafter are wrought or prepared for heaven while they are here; the stones of that spiritual building and temple above are squared and fashioned here below. And he that hath wrought us for this is God, because nothing less than a divine power can make a soul partaker of a divine nature; no hand less than the hand of God can work us for this thing. A great deal is to be done to prepare our souls for heaven, and that preparation of the heart is from the Lord.
So then, what does this have to do with me, I hear you ask. Well, this generation has no sense of ownership and being. It has been said by one man that the present generation of young people in Europe are living in a vacuum, and that they are waiting for something or someone to come along and fill that vacuum. Young people want a cause with which they can align themselves (and give themselves to.) All we have to do is watch the present situation on the news to see that young men are giving themselves to false ideals and putting their hope and identity in a god who always demands yet never communes, who hides and never reveals himself.
When we, the emerging generation in the Church catch a glimpse of, and take a look into what Christ has doneandisworking in us, then we will begin to understand that we are His, and His for a purpose. That purpose is to call others to obedience to the Gospel and to being a part of His people, His own possession. It is to see those who are possessed by anything other than Him, come to know of the freedom that comes by the possession of His Kingdom as it enters their hearts. That’s true identity, that’s true fellowship and that’s freedom!
There is an inner heart, there is an inner being, that can reach out, and you not only see the Lord Jesus but you feel the Lord Jesus… and you are one with Christ in an indissoluble union… you are part of Jesus Christ… you are one in Christ and with Him heirs of God.
This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
You have lifted up the shrine of Molech
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.’
Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them.
To begin with in this article, I am going to make a controversial statement: ‘The Western Church today is struggling in many areas of its ministry because it does not understand its Jewish roots!’
You may wonder how I can make such a statement, especially against statistics of unprecedented Church growth in the last 100 years or so. (Which even if it is the case, doesn’t validate or invalidate everything we do.) And what do I mean by Jewish roots? I do not mean becoming Jewish per se, or taking on another culture when you are not of Jewish decent. Rather, I mean the ways of God revealed to those key men and women of faith in Israel in Biblical history, of whom Jesus is the pinnacle in every way.
The Church can continue to be used by God, because His heart is gracious and wanting ALL to come to repentance. But His plan of salvation is more than access to heaven. It is about becoming a Kingdom people. That is why Christ came. There is a text, which demonstrates something of the difference between seeing God’s power, as opposed to those that go deeper to see His ways as well as His power.
Psalm 103: 7 – He made known his waysunto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
This for me is an interesting Scripture. God’s people can know His power without knowing His ways. It takes a unique person to find out God’s ways. Moses was such a man. He not only found out what God could do for the people of Israel, but what God wanted to do for them in terms of purpose and strategy. How we could benefit from doing such a thing!
It is my firm belief that with every reformation, revival, renewal and outpouring of any kind comes not only an intensifying of God’s power and presence, but a revelation of God’s ways. The same Lord who came to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob; the One who visited Moses at the Bush & Sinai; the One who led the people of God into the land of promise; the One who revealed Himself to David, Daniel and all the other prophets and kings – this God came in flesh and met with humanity. In particular, this God met with a people, and revealed His Son according to the flesh through and to a Jewish people, that through His death and resurrection Israel might reveal His Kingdom to men of every Nation. This was Israel’s unique call and destiny! This is why 12 uneducated men saw themselves as the beginning of that fulfillment. From them, and other early disciples, the people of ‘the Way’ continued to minister Jesus Christ according to a unique understanding. They saw themselves as an ‘eschatological people.’ They were a newly formed people of the age to come, foreseen in OT prophecy, living in the present and carrying the Kingdom because of the visitation of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God. Yet they knew that it was not yet all consummated as the prophets had also foretold. Israel as a nation had not yet fully turned (many had rejected Jesus) and all the nations had yet to experience the Gospel of this inaugurated Kingdom. These things would have been central to the early Jewish believers and their mission. So was their understanding of the gospel and the Kingdom of God on the earth, which was steeped in Jewish history and Scriptures, even if Christ came to redefine what some of that would look like. It was a very Jewish thing to be a follower of King Jesus.
So when the same Spirit of God of the early Church visits today by outpourings of various kinds, He comes to restore the NT faith as prescribed by Jesus and then the 12. This can often be startling, even offensive, and bring a great shock to the system if God’s people today do not allow His Spirit to enlarge their spirit during such a season of visitation. You see, we westerners have put the faith into a mold and we view it through a certain western shade. Hence, Church history has known its fair share of turmoil. Yes, there have been splits due to the division of the enemy, or the spirit of rebellion in a people, or even an abuse by a key leader. But not all schism has come because of this. Some have come, because God has revealed who He really is, and a return to the NT faith & practice is required, and reformation has had to come as a return to His ways – it’s the only wineskin that will hold the new wine!
The theme of Jewish roots is a big subject and thus I will not have time to even scratch the surface of it. So with the above issues in mind, I would like to look at one particular theme, which I believe is absolutely crucial in the ongoing purpose of the Church. I believe if the Western Church grasps this in the near future (as I believe the Chinese Church has), we could be hearing of powerful transformation coming to people, houses, communities and nations. It is what I call the New Testament Exodus.
Recently, I wrote these words in a booklet I put together:
I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus.’
I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations.
Getting back to the basics.
You see, we have to believe that when Jesus came to this earth, and when the early Jewish disciples ministered before and after His resurrection / ascension, they saw everything in a particular light. All their words, actions and perception, were deeply grounded in the revelation of God and His Kingdom, progressively promised in the prophets, shown in glimpses through types and shadows, revealed and fulfilled in Jesus! Matthew really seems eager to lay hold of this theme. In chapter 2: 15 in quoting Hosea, Matthew says:
‘Out of Egypt I called My Son…’
Already here Jesus is being described in ways pertaining to Israel as a whole. Even as Israel, as a son, was called out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, Jesus – the Son fulfills and embodies Israel and fulfills her destiny. (Even Isaiah’s prophecies use the terms ‘son’ & ‘servant’ and they hold double meaning in the light of the NT.)
Then to add to that Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3. Why did the Pharisees get offended at such a thing? Because ‘washings’ were an important part of Jewish practice. To receive the ceremonial washings in Israel was to identify with the Nation; and even Gentiles, if wanting to become a part of the Nation, had to go through such strict washings. Yet Jesus, identifies not with the traditions of men but rather John the Baptist’s baptism, and with all those of a humble heart – sinners, poor, weak and those without hope. Luke records in his Gospel narrative that Jesus was baptized, ‘…when all the people were being baptized…’ What a gracious & merciful Master!
He goes through a true baptism, not one of hypocrisy. He does it to fulfill righteousness. And what’s more, he is identifying with the people of God and the Exodus of the OT, and He is introducing a new Exodus. Paul, a Jew of Jews, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 & 2 says:
‘For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.’
And later in verse 11:
‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.’
So, even in the act of Baptism Jesus is identifying with a people, ‘called out of Egypt’, and going through the waters, which signifies the cutting off of the old life, and entering to the new as a fulfillment people. Jesus really is making big statements even with His actions! How many times do we perceive in the West today, Baptism as just symbolic of an inward change? When whilst it carries that symbolism, it also has deeper significance in terms of our identifying with this glorious God-man Jesus and His end-time people. So then this was a very Jewish thing and an understanding of the early Jewish ‘Jesus -sect’ (as some would have called them) would have added a weightier meaning to this important act in response to faith. We as a NT people joined in union by Jesus, our Sacrificial Lamb, Deliverer and Apostle, have left Egypt (the world and its hold) and have become heirs of the promise – the Kingdom now and to come.
Now add to this Exodus viewpoint, there is also this thought coming through: Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan, quite a dirty river, and indeed forbidden as a place of purification by early rabbinic tradition. Jordan was the second major body of water that the children of Israel crossed by miraculous intervention. After their crossing into the Land, 12 men were chosen to take 12 stones from the river and place them as a memorial for the 12 tribes of Israel. (Joshua 4: 1 – 9) The Gospel’s closely link the choosing of the 12 disciples / apostles in their narrative shortly after the Baptism & wilderness accounts. God is speaking in a significant way!
Now regarding the wilderness account in Matthew 4, Matthew then carries the Exodus theme further with these words:
‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights…’
Recorded here is how the Spirit leads the Lord into the wilderness (a place of significance for Israel.) There He is tried and tested, yet triumphs in weakness. He is there for a symbolic number of 40 days, without food, in comparison to the children of Israel who complained for lack of food. So the fulfillment of Israel’s existence and role is now starting to really take shape. Where a generation of the children of Israel under Moses did not go into promise because of unbelief and disobedience in the wilderness, this glorious Leader is different: He defeats the testing of satan in that wilderness and comes out filled with power of the Spirit! He has demonstrated that ‘man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’He did this in the power of God, and is making up for Israel’s unbelief in the God of their fathers. Israel’s glory and victory is in this glorious Man!
Now something quite phenomenal begins to take shape in the account of Matthew. From there he tells of Jesus going into the region of Galilee, or as quoted by Matthew from Isaiah – ‘Galilee of the Gentiles.’ In the OT, Israel when led out was given a unique mandate from heaven in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6, that they were to ‘drive out the nations… and burn their idols…’ and they were to then possess the land of inheritance. Jesus begins to demonstrate a whole new meaning to this. As mentioned earlier, He then gathers twelve young men to Himself (remember the symbolism.) However now, He begins to preach the Kingdom as drawing near, and it is recorded, ‘healed every disease and sickness… news spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering with pain, thedemon possessed…He healed them ALL. ’
Jesus is redefining to the Jewish people what their calling really is all about. It is to be a light to nations covered in darkness. As He drives out all the affects of darkness on a poor and helpless people, so too are they called to bring Light to the Nations. As He is delivering them from idolatry, which culminates in demon possession, so are they to reveal the One true God in His Son – Jesus, and a possession of His Spirit. As He deals with the tyranny of satan, so too are they to preach release to the captive and an entrance into a new Kingdom which is not of this world. They – the people of Israel, in Jesus, are to be a people who fulfill what their ‘Moses / Joshua led ancestors’ foreshadowed – drive out the works of evil, inherit the promise of God, bless the nations, and enter the rest of God.
Later on in Matthew, Jesus teaches ‘the sermon on the mount,’ (which is itself symbolic of Moses & Israel receiving the OT law on Sinai) He comes down from the mountain and does powerful signs of the Kingdom, even to a gentile centurion with great faith. Make no mistake, Jesus really is moving and fulfilling things in an unmistakable way to the early disciples, and the nation at large.
I believe what is being portrayed is powerful and glorious. Because it is then the 12 disciples, after Jesus demonstrating to them and teaching them His law and His ways, who are then ‘sent’ or ‘apostlized’ to do the very same thing – take the Kingdom message and power, drive out demons and proclaim ‘peace’ to the house that receives them. They are embodying Israel’s rediscovered calling. Initially, they are to go only to the lost sheep of Israel for it is firstly a matter of fulfillment and significance to them as a historic covenant people. But Luke later records, that the 12 were to become a group of 70, and no such geographical or racial boundary is given at that time of sending. Thus the prophetic call to Israel as God’s son and servant is fulfilled in the Messiah – Jesus Christ, and all those who attach themselves to Him. Therefore, it is a VERY Jewish thing for a Jew to embrace this glorious God-Man; it is a very Jewish thing to be a missionary for God; in fact it is very Jewish to be Apostolic, and it is a very awesome thing for a Gentile to be accepted as part of the people and share in that calling!
As I quoted earlier from my book, in Luke 9, Jesus speaks of ‘His exodus’ later on when on the mount of transfiguration. He is to die a terrible death and become Israel’s Passover Lamb, as well as their deliverer in leading the people out of bondage. But His death is not final, rather it is a doorway. He is to go to the depths of the grave, as Psalm 68: 15 – 18 & Ephesians 4 says, and lead captivity captive. And He is to lead that formerly sinful idolatrous people, (Jews & Gentiles alike) into His rest, through death, resurrection, reigning and granting us access and peace with God, through Himself! Hebrews 3 even likens the greater ministry of Jesus to the lesser one of Moses. In fact the whole of that epistle is about this theme. It really is awesome, this New Testament Exodus!
This is another mountain experience with God, as was the Sermon on the Mount. Again, God is alluding to the Sinai experience. This time it is not only about His law entering the heart of men, but rather Jesus now being the fulfillment of the Law & Prophets. His Jewish disciples were not to see the preparatory types and shadows as an end in themselves. God thus hides the two OT figures away after Peter’s desire to build tabernacles for them. God centers His will and revelation in His Son. After this powerful experience on the mountaintop with the inner circle of Peter, James & John, (not forgetting Moses & Elijah) Jesus goes down and finds a mess. The disciples cannot cast out a demonic spirit from a boy. There is a large crowd watching. Jesus gives a startling indictment against that generation (not just the apostles) that they are ‘unbelieving and perverse!’ He subsequently casts out the demon and the people are amazed.
This carries with it tones of what Moses faced upon his coming down from the ‘mount of God’ after receiving the law. He came face to face with demonic activity in the form of worship of a golden calf. He too faced an ‘unbelieving and perverse generation.’
The difference now with Jesus, as opposed to the day of Moses, is that our Lord has not failed to deal with the powers of the darkness that affect the nations. Moses may have destroyed the golden calf, but later on he is himself disobedient and filled with unbelief over the use of the rod of God. Moses did not go in to inherit. Jesus, full of faith and the Holy Spirit has overcome! He was perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. (Phil 2: 8 / Romans 5: 19 / Hebrews 5: 8 -9) He has inherited and will possess the Nations. The decisive victory at the Cross has been accomplished! He now has entered the rest for us, and we are to know of this inheritance also, now and in the ages to come.
The book of Acts shows how seriously the early Church took the words, mission and methods of Jesus, and how they perceived them. They carried on in that pilgrim spirit, exporting and sending, dispossessing and inheriting. Jewish disciples and apostles bringing people of all tribes into Israel’s inheritance of the Kingdom, through the message of Jesus Christ. God had revealed His New Testament Exodus to His people – how could they do anything but respond!
Now because of God’s grace revealed in His Son, we have inherited a Kingdom! We must pray much and examine the early Jewish Church life and practice. Pray for the same understanding of God’s ways, grace and power to be upon us. The first Jewish disciples saw everything in this light (as well as much more), and so too must we! We are a chosen race, as Peter declares, to declare the praises of God, who called us out of darkness. That’s Exodus type language. Paul says in Ephesians 3, the Church is called to ‘make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers…’ – that’s Exodus understanding!
So then people of God, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ, let us rediscover our Jewish roots. If we do, it will affect our understanding of who we are, and where we are heading, in this age and in the age to come. I thank God for the Jews, chosen and elect of God to a unique destiny. I thank God for the early band of Jewish disciples – holy radicals for Jesus who turned the world upside down. I thank God mostly for Jesus. Who by His grace brought me – ‘an alien’ by natural birth, and adopted me as a son. So that with the faithful remnant of Jewish brothers we can see an Apostolic witness of ‘sent ones’ taking the Kingdom of God, through the message of Christ to the Nations and the Nation of Israel.
Finally, I believe that as we see the day of the Lord approaching, the Church will more and more understand her origins and identity. In that moment she will become by the Spirit, all that God has called her to be. Israel needs to witness an authentic apostolic expression of Jesus Christ today, as prescribed in the early Church of the 1st Century. Only then can a jealous Israel, like Moses, turn aside and ‘see God’ in us earthen vessels – a type of burning bush, and come closer and believe. My prayer with Paul is for ALL of Israel to be saved, and for the Nations to join with her to form a ‘Jesus-people’. When such a ‘New Man’ is formed we will see Christ’s return. May I encourage you to pray for revival in the Nations, including the Middle East. And pray for revival in Israel, for as Paul says in Romans 9: 1 – ‘…my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit…’ – it is God’s desire!